2018-2019 Session 7: Research, Education, and Practice

Date: April 5, 2019

Location: Glassell School of Art; 5101 Montrose Blvd, Studio 10  Houston, Texas 77006

Led by: Brian Burnett, Matthew Duggan

Session In-Kind Sponsors:  Huckabee

Venue Sponsor: Glassell School of Art
0a Bldg Exterior


Brian Burnett and Matthew Duggan led the seventh session of the 2018-2019 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program titled “Research, Education, and Practice.” The scholars met in one of the second-floor studios at the new Glassell School of Art for a series of interactive presentations focused on research in architectural practice. Kerri Ranney showed the scholars how Huckabee Architects uses LEx Labs as an active tool for collaboration and research in the design of classrooms and learning environments. Peter Boudreaux shared how his firm, Curry Boudreaux Architects, used research methods to design and create an accessible “camp for all” that continues to inform the firm’s other projects. The scholars were also led on a tour of the new Glassell School of Art by Brian Burnett, after which Brian and co-presenter Matthew Duggan led an interactive presentation on various research initiatives across the profession. Angela Wrigglesworth, a 3rd-grade teacher with HISD, concluded the session with powerful stories about teaching, motivating, and empowering people through access and inclusion.  The scholars continued the conversation during happy hour at Under the Volcano.

Keynote 1: Research in Practice: Interior Environments Maximized for Learning

Kerri Ranney, LEx Labs – Huckabee

1b Kerri

Kerri Ranney introduced the scholars to the research initiatives of Huckabee Architects through  LEx – Learning Experience Laboratories – which collaborates with other research entities at Baylor University in Waco, Texas. Their efforts focus on education, professional development for designers and educators, and facility design. Research at LEx is geared towards the elementary school level, and they measure student engagement (which is considered authentic learning) rather than test scores or grades. They want to move away from standardized testing and towards alternate paths of success since not all successful people need higher education or a college degree. Kerri explained what is involved in “real” research – not just a buzzword used by many firms. R1 is a research category that is publishable, verifiable, based on statistics, and eligible for federal funds. Huckabee’s research evolved through three rounds of development, including an experimental spatial lab, setting up labs at schools, and pilot programs with controlled vs. intervention rooms at schools. They also utilize online collaboration tools and virtual tours of their research spaces for those unable to visit Waco in person. Their research center is used to educate clients about the built environment and impact it can have on teaching and learning. Exploring outside references such as nursing stations and museums has influenced their school and classroom design, and each design solution is hyper-local for each community – there is no prototype ideal learning environment to be used in multiple locations. Kerri concluded her presentation by sharing that Huckabee plans to publish the first draft of their research in May 2019.

Keynote 2: Research focused Practices: Refining the Built Environment

Brian Burnett, Kendall/Heaton & Matthew Duggan, BRW Architects

4a Brian Matt

Brian and Matthew began their keynote with an overview of the article “3 Myths and 1 Model” by Jeremy Till, which is an overview of architectural research in today’s practice.  Scholars shared their thoughts and lamented how few people outside the profession of architecture understand how architects work and what they do. Research in practice seeks to establish a feedback loop with post-occupancy evaluations to measure the built environment and determine areas for improvement. The scholars discussed how many firms are leading the charge with various research initiatives – KieranTimberlake, Sasaki Foundation, Payette, Perkins + Will, Texas A&M, among many others. However, much of the leading research in design and technology is kept within the individual architectural practices and rarely shared with the design community. Architects are recognizing that building code represents the bare minimum and they are taking a more aggressive approach to meet energy targets through efforts like the AIA 2030 DDx (Design Data exchange).

Keynote 3: Research through Practice: Optimizing Accessibility – Universal Design

Peter Boudreaux, Curry Boudreaux Architects

2b Peter

To further accentuate the topic of architectural research in today’s practice, Peter Boudreaux of Curry Boudreaux Architects shared his career-long experience of researching, practicing, and optimizing universal-design in the built environment.  He began his presentation with the story of how his firm started as a 600sf office space with no projects but a bunch of contacts. Peter and his partner began reaching out to all their contacts to see who would be open to an initial conversation.  One of those contacts happened to be Dr. Paul Gerson with a dream to create a “camp for all” that accommodated children with disabilities who could enjoy a fun place that was also a healing environment. Over the course of two decades, Curry Boudreaux Architects designed several facilities for Camp For All that initially accommodated 16 different disabilities but now serves 60+ disabilities.  The successful range of accommodations originated from the design team’s intention to design to principles instead of minimum code requirements (ADA/TAS), initiating direct conversations with future user groups in the programming stage, studying comparable projects and visiting them in person, and following up after construction with a post-occupancy study by a third party.

Break / Glassell School of Art Tour

3a Tour

Brian Burnett guided the scholars on an active tour through the Glassell School of Art spaces including the lobby, rooftop, and auditorium while sharing his experience of the project as part of the Kendall Heaton team working with Steven Holl Architects. Brian made sure to note that each window and precast concrete panel is unique, which required much coordination. The scholars noted that the rooftop event space and roof garden could benefit from some shaded areas. The corner door system in the auditorium was one of the tour highlights.

Keynote 4: Education in Practice: Teaching and Motivating – Empowering People

Angela Wrigglesworth, 3rd-grade teacher with HISD

5a Angela

The final speaker of the day was Angela Wrigglesworth who provided personal stories involving unexpected accessibility/mobility encounters while utilizing a motorized wheelchair.  Angela began her segment with a positive objective of “always be willing to offer help… you never know when you could accomplish something you didn’t expect.” She told the ironic, heroic tale of being able to help a stranded motorist by using her powered wheelchair to push a non-mobile vehicle to a gas station.  Angela also gave an account of being physically blocked out of a restaurant she highly anticipated visiting while traveling abroad… all because of one step at the building’s entrance instead of a ramp. Luckily the owners of the restaurant made an extra effort to accommodate her situation. In this scenario, people were able to step in to make up for a building’s inaccessibility but on a more routine basis, encountering an inaccessible building can tamper the freedom and confidence of someone with mobility issues and it communicates a subliminal message of exclusion… something for architects to consider especially if they’re passionate about the social impact on the community.   


The seventh session of the 2018-2019 Christopher Kelley Leadership Development Program excellently captured “Research, Education, and Practice” in the architecture profession with insights from experts that extensively researched their material, implemented and experimented with it in built environments, and worked to improve their practice based upon the results they received.  The middle of the session was broken up with a walking tour of the newly constructed Glassell School of Art and a broad-reaching presentation of “what’s out there” from Brian and Matt who paired it with a prior reading assignment given to the scholars. The energetic and emotional storytelling from Angela created a notable appeal to remember the importance of inclusion for all in society.


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